OKLAHOMA CITY – For all the talk about young legs, it didn’t hurt for the Thunder to have an old head and ancient beating heart in their midst coming down the stretch of Game 6.
Look at the lineup employed by OKC coach Scott Brooks in the biggest quarter in Thunder history: 23-year-old Kevin Durant and 23-year-old Russell Westbrook played all 12 minutes of the final period.
So did 37-year-old Derek Fisher.
This is why the Thunder signed him as a free agent when he cleared waivers on March 21. This is why Fisher chose to hitch up with OKC instead of remaining in Houston following the trade deadline-day deal. He can still fish for championships instead of fishing on vacation.
For all their talent, the Thunder needed a Yoda. And make no mistake about it, even in his 16th NBA season, Yoda can still hit the clutch jumper.
Fisher finished the night with nine points and five of them came in the fourth quarter. After the Spurs cut OKC’s lead to two points with 4:51 left in the game, Fisher took a feed from James Harden and stuck in a dagger 3-pointer from out of the left corner. After Tony Parker drove through the lane for a reverse that brought San Antonio to within 101-97 with 2:17 to go, Fisher gathered in another dish from Harden and dropped in a running banker from the right side.
Of course, Fisher has been doing this kind of stuff since way back in the days when Durant and Westbrook were of the age that matches the kiddie wardrobes they now prefer. When he won the first of his five championships with the Lakers back in 2000, Durant and Westbrook were both 11.
“It is hard to stop and reflect, to be honest,” Fisher said. “I am just thankful for my opportunity to play and be a part of this game. At the appropriate time I will be able to look back and reflect on this special time, but we still have some unfinished business to complete, but we took a big step closer tonight in accomplishing our goal.”
The Spurs have seen Fisher take those big steps before, most notably his running shot with 0.4 seconds left in Game 5 of the 2004 Western Conference semifinals, when the Lakers also rallied from an 0-2 hole to complete a four-game reverse sweep of San Antonio.
There was Fisher hitting big shots when the Lakers beat the Magic in the 2010 NBA Finals. Still motoring on near the end of his fourth decade, he comes up almost consistently clutch in the playoffs as his former teammate, Robert Horry.
The Thunder wanted him for his experience and for his wisdom. But they also wanted him because they knew he could still delivered when things got tight and the biggest unspoken statement about that was Brooks leaving Fisher out on the court for every second of that fourth quarter.
“I really wasn’t thinking a lot about it when I was playing,” Fisher said. “I was just fully engaged and engrossed in the action. If coach pulled me, I would have fully supported whatever player came in. But I believe the energy and the momentum in the game began to turn for us after a great third quarter. I think coach Brooks just trusted the group on the floor at the time.”
It seems Ol’ Man River is still too young to go fishing.